Fresh fruit season is upon us here in the Midwest. The farmers markets and grocery store shelves are stacked high with delicious strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. Sweet stone fruits such as peaches, plums and apricots beckon. How can we resist?
Often during the summer months, I end up buying more fruit than my family is able to consume. Since no one wants to see precious summer fruit go rotten, here is a fun and easy remedy: Turn excess fruit into dried fruit leather. Dehydrated fruit is an excellent snack for kids on the go.
This preserving method is also a great way to use bruised, less-then-perfect pieces of fruit that don't make it into your fruit salad. Plus, kids will be fascinated by the transformation from fresh fruit to sticky snack.
Fruit leather can be made from a variety of fresh fruits, but strawberries are especially easy to work with for first-timers. This recipe can easily be modified for other fruit.
Although fruit leather is a tasty snack, the pediatric dentists out there would certainly want me to mention that your child should brush his teeth after consuming this sticky, sweet treat.
Purée strawberries and sugar in a blender until totally smooth. Add a small amount of sugar to begin with and taste as you go. Many ripe fruits won't require much additional sugar at all. Strain the puree through a sieve into a saucepan. Use the back of a spatula to push as much liquid as possible through the sieve. Discard the remaining seeds and solids.
Bring the purée to a boil in a saucepan, then simmer over a low heat for at least one hour. Stir the puree regularly. As you approach the end of the cooking time, carefully monitor the purée to ensure that it doesn't burn or stick. The mixture should be reduced to about 1 cup.
While the mixture is reducing, line a large baking sheet with a Silpat baking mat (a reusable, non-stick liner). Pour the hot purée onto the liner and spread thinly and evenly into a rectangular shape using the back of the spatula. A uniform thickness will ensure that the fruit leather dries thoroughly.
Dry the fruit purée in a 200-degree oven for two or three hours until the fruit leather is no longer sticky to the touch. Cool on liner on a rack until completely dry (at least three hours). Depending on how much liquid is in the fruit, this process could take up to 24 hours.
When the fruit leather is completely dry, place a sheet of parchment paper on top and peel leather off the liner. Roll the fruit leather up in parchment. Strawberry fruit leather will keep in a sealed container at room temperature for about a month. Cut the fruit leather into strips or use cookie cutters to create fun shapes.
Caitlin Murray Giles is a full-time mother of three and part-time freelance writer living in Wicker Park.
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